the Junkyard: Hey there, please introduce yourself to the community.
Dave Nixon: Howdy. I'm David Nixon, and I'm a Senior Producer in the games group at RealNetworks.
tJY: What exactly do you do at real.com... other than play Axis all day long?
Dave: Mostly I'm a project manager, but I'm also a tester, game designer, and large-stick-wielder when the need arises. I work with game developers to make sure their games are tested, debugged, and thoroughly prepared for successful Electronic Distribution through RealNetworks and RealArcade. Axis is one of a number of games I'm working on.
tJY: There is a lot of hype about RealArcade, but I'm sure there are people out there that still don't know what it is, or how they can benefit by playing games through it. Can you enlighten us?
Dave: RealArcade is a service and a downloadable client designed to make finding, downloading, installing, managing, and playing good downloadable games easy. RealArcade is geared towards people who download and play games, but not necessarily too computer-savvy "hard-core" gamers who voraciously consume games like Axis (or Q3A, or UT, or TA, Black and White, or Diablo II, etc.)
However, as our library grows, and the business of downloadable games also grows, our library of exciting, new, games like Axis and Cluster ball that are only available via download will expand as well. As that happens the idea of RealArcade as a place to get high-quality, fun, immersive downloadable games becomes more and more attractive to anyone interested in great games.
The benefits? In a nutshell:
The best downloadable games. We scour the internet and the games industry for the best downloadable games software, test them, prep them, and make them available in one easy-to-find place. You can be sure that any game we offer meets a certain standard of quality and entertainment value. In addition, because RealNetworks has online distribution muscle that many other companies DON'T have, we can bring you more and better games.
Better file compression. Our proprietary compression scheme that is only available through RealArcade provides 10% to 50% better compression than zip. That means we can fit the same game into a smaller package - making for faster downloads.
Unique variety. The electronic distribution business is less risky than the CD-ROM games business which makes it the ideal place for developers who really want to try something new. Check out a game like Evernight, or SmallBall, or MAD: Global Thermonuclear War. Those games are incredibly fun, challenging, and a truly different experience than anything available at CD-ROM retail. We can take the risk of bringing you something new and different because the expenses associated with CD-ROM deliver aren't there.
Try before you buy. All of our games offer some trial period so you can decide if the game is worth your hard-earned cash BEFORE you buy it.
Increased download reliability. The RealArcade download manager makes it more likely that you'll make it through a big download, and gives you the opportunity to resume a stopped or failed download. This was one of the hardest things to get right, but we think it adds tremendous value, especially for modem users.
Managing your collection. Games that can be downloaded this easy are going to make for a rather larger collection than you might have now. RealArcade lets you find, install, organize, play, and delete games quickly and easily.
Built-in e-commerce. You can buy the games right through the RealArcade client. Many times your game will be "unlocked" automatically immediately after purchase. It makes buying a downloadable game simple.
tJY: With this in mind, how will users be able to get Axis? Download only, CD delivery, etc.? Approximately how big will the package be for downloading... some of our 56k'er's need to know
Dave: Through RealArcade, the install package is about 30MB. Outside RealArcade, it's about 35MB.
Our version of Axis will only be available by download. RealNetworks (and RealArcade) isn't interested in CD-ROM delivery... it's not our business. However, I expect that Jamie Systems may continue to pursue CD-ROM distribution opportunities in North America, so it might be available someday through a traditional CD-ROM publisher.
In the meantime, you'll be able to get Axis off our website (www.realarcade.com) in regular, stand-alone, EXE install form...OR you can get RealArcade and use the RealArcade client to download, install, and play.
tJY: And for those of us who are on a limited budget, what will the price of the game be?
Dave: $19.99 USD.
tJY: Originally being developed in Korea, Axis, hasn't received a lot of publicity here in North America. So, for those who still don't know what Axis is, can you tell us what makes Axis different from 'all the other games' out there? Why should people be interested in it?
Dave: This is true. Axis is an FPS (first person shooter) - style game in which you pilot huge combat robots head-to-head in individual and team combat. The art style is very anime-esq, and the game has an overall character and art feel like the old Robotech or Starblazers series'.
The things that I think make it unique are:
A) Huge scale. The scale of the participants and the environments are huge... much different than your average man-size stuff you find in UT or other games like it.
B) Customizable robots. There are literally thousands of different combinations of equipment and weapons that you can use to tweak and tune your robot to different play styles and mission objectives. Best of all these tweaks are not only useful, but necessary to be successful. The equipment balance in the game is awesome.
C) 6 axes of control. Unlike Q3A, etc. You fly your combat mech in environments where up and down are as important as forward, back, right, and left. However, unlike Descent II (the last game I played with true 6 axes movement), you don't confuse up with down regularly. Jamie systems has an AWESOME control schema that experienced FPS players very quickly pick up with almost no learning curve, even though we've added another "axis" of movement.
D) Interaction between single player and multiplayer. One of the things I thought was a cool touch is that you "unlock" weapons and equipment by progressing through singleplayer, THEN they become available in multiplayer. So there is some real advantage to practicing in the offline missions.
tJY: Moving onto a more online posture, will the user need to login to the multiplayer action with RealArcade's proprietary software?
Dave: No. The game will be available both with and without the RealArcade client. In fact, for this game all the multiplayer matchmaking will be done through the in-game system. We are (eventually) going to integrate the matchmaking so that you can access it through RealArcade, but some incompatibles between the game's multiplayer requirements and our matchmaking made it difficult. I decided that since the game's in-game system was pretty good that I'd rather release the game sooner and worry about enabling RealArcade matchmaking as a future update.
tJY: One thing that I believe has hurt Axis is the lack of a dedicated server option -- whenever players want to play or set up servers they actually have to be in the game to set one up; as opposed to just typing a few commands in DOS for example. Are there any plans for dedicated server support?
Dave: Not really. Our focus has been debugging what we currently had and getting it released so that people could play the game. We will discuss updates like this one (which is a great idea) later. Keep in mind that Axis (unlike other FPS's) uses a peer-to-peer networking system for online play, not a client/server system. Basically this has both advantages and disadvantages, but it makes a dedicated server both more difficult to implement and less beneficial.
tJY: Something that has really hurt the gaming industry is the introduction of warez and ISO's. Players don't really need to buy the game anymore to play it, unless that is, the developer takes some steps to secure their product. Will RealArcade be implementing any type of protection against this in Axis?
Dave: Well... I suppose it's arguable how much warez has hurt the gaming industry. You could argue that the people who use warez versions of your game never would have purchased it to begin with.
We do implement some security, and we are working on better security. However, since nothing is hack-proof, our focus continues to be on keeping honest people honest. There will always be someone interested in stealing what you have (be that hard goods or downloadable software). And there will always be people with the drive and the smarts to crack whatever security you have and make their cracks available to everyone else.
Further - Really secure DRM (Digital Rights Management) solutions in the past make it darn near as hard for an honest, paying customer to successfully use the game as it is for a hacker to crack it. I'm really more interested in reasonable security that doesn't impede people from playing the game, than I am keeping folks who hack for fun from cracking the game.
The people who use warez software are really hurting everyone who enjoy games, including themselves. More piracy means less $$ for developers. Less $$ for developers means fewer and lower quality games. This means fewer games we want to play. A vicious circle.
tJY: No one's perfect, but some of the network code in Axis is... somewhat less than stellar, is RealArcade editing or optimizing any of the network code in order to deliver a more stable online environment?
Dave: Well - I've heard some complaints to that effect, but haven't experienced it myself. I've been very happy with the network code, all in all. That said, there have been some bugs fixed in that regards since the Korean version was released. Whether that will result in really dramatic improvements, I'm not sure.
tJY: What type of documentation or manuals will be available? Currently, the English manual is a 30MB .DOC file, beautifully done, but unfit for electronic distribution.
Dave: Much of the critical information in that really cool help file (24 MB worth) has been moved into the game's readme, and a single in-game help screen. What I'd like to do is convert the full manual to a website (it should convert very nicely), and make it available that way. I haven't got permission from Jamie Systems to do this yet, but I hope to discuss this with them soon.
tJY: Naturally, every developer's dream would be to release a 'perfect' game and not have to patch it, but unfortunately, with the diversity of computers and configurations nowadays, there's bound to be bugs that show up one on one person's computer and not the other's. So, if and when patches for the game are released, how will they be handled?